Scientists from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences create an artificial eye, which has been inspired by the human eye.

The newly developed adaptive metalens is an electronically controlled, flat artificial eye which can control image shift, astigmatism, and focus simultaneously. All three play a major part in creating blurry images.

Adaptive Metalens

Alan She, the lead author of the study, said that the research combined artificial muscle technology breakthroughs with metalens technology to make metalens that is tunable, which can alter its focus in real time, same as the human eye does.

“We go one step further to build the capability of dynamically correcting for aberrations such as astigmatism and image shift, which the human eye cannot naturally do,” says She.

Federico Capasso, the senior author of the paper, added that the adaptive metalens shows the practicality of autofocus and optical zoom that is embedded for a varied spectrum of applications, which include augmented and virtual reality hardware, eyeglasses, and cell phone cameras.

He also added that the technology demonstrates the likelihood of optical microscopes in the future, which have fully electronic operations and can simultaneously correct many anomalies.

The intellectual property linked to the project has been protected by the Harvard Office of Technology Development and it is also looking into commercialization opportunities.

Developing The Adaptive Metalens

The research team scaled up the metalens to develop the artificial eye.The prior metalens was about a single glitter piece's size, which focused light and eliminated aberrations that are spherical through a thick design of nanostructures, each tinier than light's wavelength.

To help the metalens be compatible with the current technology used to make integrated circuits, the team worked on a new algorithm. The researchers then had to attach the big metalens to an artificial muscle without getting its capability of focusing light compromised.

The team selected a transparent, thin dielectric elastomer with low loss, which means light passes through the material without getting too scattering, for attaching the lens. The experts facilitated this by creating a platform for transforming and adhering the lens to the soft surface. The newly developed lens and muscle measure only 30 microns in thickness.

The scientists are next aiming at further improving the lens' functionality and decreasing the voltage needed for controlling it.

The research was published in Science Advances on Feb. 23. It was backed in part by the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

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